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Behind the Bookshelves

Books & Literature

A podcast from AbeBooks. This series is dedicated to telling the stories behind books and the people who love them. We'll salute classic novels and famous authors, investigate long-forgotten books, and discuss publishing houses, libraries, bookshops, and anyone else with a bookish story to tell.

A podcast from AbeBooks. This series is dedicated to telling the stories behind books and the people who love them. We'll salute classic novels and famous authors, investigate long-forgotten books, and discuss publishing houses, libraries, bookshops, and anyone else with a bookish story to tell.


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A podcast from AbeBooks. This series is dedicated to telling the stories behind books and the people who love them. We'll salute classic novels and famous authors, investigate long-forgotten books, and discuss publishing houses, libraries, bookshops, and anyone else with a bookish story to tell.






Botanist Joseph Banks

We are discussing the legacy of pioneering botanist Joseph Banks with Mark James from Type & Forme, a rare bookselling firm in the UK. Banks traveled to Australia with Captain Cook on a voyage that began in 1768 and ended in 1771. Along the way, Banks and his colleagues discovered and recorded around 1,300 previously undocumented botanical species. We learn how Banks revolutionized botany and yet failed to publish a book of his work during his lifetime.


Cultivated Elements of Floral Style

We are joined by Christin Geall, the author of Cultivated: The Elements of Floral Style - a new book about floral design. With almost 100,000 followers on Instagram, Christin is a designer, writer, gardener, and photographer. Her book features stunning photography of arrangements and offers advice to anyone who wants to get creative with cut flowers.


Worlds of JRR Tolkien

Today, we are going on a journey to Middle-Earth. We speak to John Garth, the author of The Worlds of J. R. R. Tolkien: The Places That Inspired Middle-earth. John's book identifies the real places that inspired the fictional locations of The Shire, Rivendell, Mirkwood, and Mordor. Learn about Tolkien's childhood, his WWI experiences in the trenches, and his dislike for Oxford traffic.


The Book of Black Magic

The Book of Black Magic, written by mystic A.E. Waite, was first published in 1898. A prolific author, Waite was a member of a secret magical society devoted to the occult and he also co-created one of the most popular of all tarot decks. Discover the story behind Waite's Book of Black Magic.


Capers of Bookseller Johnny Jenkins

Our guest is Michael Vinson, the author of Bluffing Texas Style: The Arsons, Forgeries, and High Stakes Poker Capers of Rare Book Dealer Johnny Jenkins. A bookseller who blazed a trail through Texas and the rare book world, Jenkins ended up dead through a gunshot to the head as his debts and crimes spiraled out of control. Listen to our interview and learn more about the capers of this poker-playing rare book dealer.


Zen and Robert Pirsig

They always say that you should try, try and try again. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert M Persig, has sold more than 5 million copies since being published in 1974. And yet, it was rejected by 121 publishers before finally being printed. Discover how this book became one of the most unlikely bestsellers of the 20th century.


Daniel Crouch on Rare Maps

Daniel is a specialist map dealer and co-owner of Daniel Crouch Rare Books, which offers antique atlases, maps, plans, sea charts and descriptions of voyages. The business has galleries in London and New York. We discuss the importance of knowing the story behind a rare map, data visualization maps, pictorial maps, and why collectors are drawn to historical maps and atlases.


Angling Books

Today, we are going fishing… in a podcast way. We’re joined by Jim Dixon, who is a bookseller on AbeBooks and located in Derbyshire in the UK. Jim specializes in antiquarian books about the English countryside, including the pastime of angling. He also has an exceptional collection dedicated to The Compleat Angler, the most important of all angling books.


Dawn Treader Book Shop Appeal

The Dawn Treader Book Shop in Ann Arbor, Michigan, needs help after being forced to close due to Covid-19. It has launched a GoFundMe appeal to raise funds. Africa Schaumann, the shop's manager, explains how the Dawn Treader serves the local community and what they are doing to stay afloat.


Robert E Howard Museum

Conan the Barbarian was created by pulp writer Robert E Howard and we are joined by Arlene Stephenson from the Robert E Howard Museum in Cross Plains, Texas. We discuss Howard's pulp fiction writing career, the enduring popularity of Conan, the author's tragic death at just 30, and how this small museum attracts Howard fans from around world.


Lawbook Exchange interview

We’re talking about law with bookseller Greg Talbot from the Lawbook Exchange. Founded in 1983, the Lawbook Exchange specializes in all aspects of law and the history of law. We learn how the business began and its international scope. Greg reveals the historical importance of law books from the Magna Carta to Napoleon and the Federalist in the US. Did you know there’s also legal poetry?


Brian Cassidy interview

We are joined by bookseller Brian Cassidy who, in 2019, launched a bookselling firm called Type Punch Matrix, along with Rebecca Romney. Brian describes his journey from poet to bookseller, and reveals why he teaches at bookseller education events. Our conversation ranges from modern duplicating technologies to Sex Pistols flyers.


Les Enluminures

We are joined by Sandra Hindman, the owner of Les Enluminures, a business dedicated to selling manuscripts and miniatures from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Sandra describes her transition from the academic world. She talks about her galleries in New York, Paris and Chicago, and her customers around the world. She explains why Books of Hours were so important in the Middle Ages and what it is like to handle a book once owned by a French king.


Emily St John Mandel interview

We speak to Emily St John Mandel about her latest novel, The Glass Hotel. You may remember her worldwide bestseller, Station 11, from 2014. Emily tells us about her fascination with the shipping industry, her journey from ballet to New York, and how a financial scandal inspired The Glass Hotel.


They Also Wrote Childrens Books

We speak to book collector John Blaney about famous authors who wrote for adults but yet also wrote children’s books. Examples include James Baldwin, Truman Capote, William Faulkner and Graham Greene. An exhibition at the Grolier Club in New York showcases some of John's modern first editions where he has selected 40 children’s books from his collection and paired each one with a famous novel from that particular author’s work for adults.


Collecting Origami Books

We are joined by David Pacheco, who is a creative director at Disney. David collects books and journals about origami. We learn about the history and traditions of origami, the cultural significance of origami in Japan, and the most prized item in David’s extensive collection.


NASA Nonfiction Tudor Fiction

In this episode, we look at Margot Lee Shetterly's book Hidden Figures following the death of NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson, and we also ask if Hilary Mantel can win a third Booker Prize with her latest Tudor-era novel about Thomas Cromwell. Plus we remember adventure author Clive Cussler.


True Grit and Outlander Tourism

In this short episode, AbeBooks looks at some of the things making headlines in the book world this week, including the loss of author Charles Portis, the effect of Outlander on Scottish tourism, an unusual tribute to Iain Banks, and the most expensive item to sell on AbeBooks last week.



Sherlockian is the American term for someone who is devoted to Sherlock Holmes. We interview Denny Dobry from the Beacon Society – an organization dedicated to providing educational resources about Sherlock Holmes to schools and libraries. We discuss Sherlock’s first appearances in print, why Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories are still relevant today, and how the stories have remained popular thanks to Hollywood, television and Sherlockian societies like the Beacon Society.


Canterbury Tales App

We speak to Peter Robinson from the University of Saskatchewan about how his team has just launched an app that brings us Chaucer's Canterbury Tales in the original colloquial Middle English. The free app is the first edition in a planned series. It features a 45-minute audio performance of the General Prologue from the Tales along with the digitized manuscript and supporting content. We discuss Chaucer's influence on the English language, his social status in the 14th century and his other...